Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible.

Mahatma Gandhi

S North
E-W ♠ Q 8 4
 10 7
 A Q 10 7 4 2
♣ 6 5
West East
♠ J 10 9 6
 8 6 3
 9 6
♣ K 9 4 3
♠ K 7 3
 K 9 5 2
 K 8 3
♣ Q 8 2
♠ A 5 2
 A Q J 4
 J 5
♣ A J 10 7
South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


When South opens a strong no-trump, North has enough to raise to game. His strong six-card suit makes this worth much more than a typical nine-count.

From a bare suit headed by the J-10 it would be reasonable for West to lead a low spade, but the presence of the nine make the lead of the honor correct here.

South should win in hand (preserving a possible re-entry to the diamonds) and should lead the diamond jack, on which East has a problem. But when dummy comes down, East should be immediately aware that there is no apparent entry to dummy outside the diamond suit. Do not waste your time while declarer plans the play; think now!

East should be able to work out that if South has only two diamonds, he can prevent the diamond suit coming into play, by DUCKING the first diamond. South will probably repeat the diamond finesse, and you can spoil his day by winning your carefully concealed diamond king.

Be careful! The hand is not over yet. If you make the mistake of playing back a heart now, declarer can recover by running your lead to his 10, and all of a sudden dummy comes back to life. Instead, shift to the club eight, (showing no interest in the suit) and when your partner wins the trick he should revert to spades, leading back the spade 10. Even if declarer works out to duck your partner’s 10, you still beat the contract by winning the next spade and switching back to clubs.

New suits in response to weak twos are natural and forcing, so you cannot pass. Rebidding your own suit is regressive and denies a fit for hearts, so does not feel right here. Maybe it is sensible to rebid two spades, which should not guarantee a four-card suit, but is just bidding where you live. You can raise hearts at your next turn.


♠ Q 8 4
 10 7
 A Q 10 7 4 2
♣ 6 5
South West North East
2 Pass 2 Pass

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2May 24th, 2017 at 1:48 pm

At one table in our club, the declarer knew the “tells” of both defenders. Consequently, she deduced the layout of the spades from the carding on the opening lead and, when West did not react to the JD lead, she over-took with the QD and East flickered before letting that face-card-rich trick hold, revealing all about that suit, also.

Switching tacks, she finessed the club, losing to West’s KC and spades were continued with East winning the third.

The defense now had three tricks, but East had no good exit.

If she led clubs, declarer would win the finesse, cash the AC and endplay East with the KD. This would give the defense a fourth trick, but the forced red return would give declarer the rest.

Instead, she led a heart, which went to the Board’s 10. Declarer repeated the heart finesse and cashed the AC. East huddled. She knew declarer well, also, and recognized that she was about to be thrown in with the QC. She would then have to lead a red card. A diamond would let that suit run, while a heart would give declarer a fourth heart to go with 1 spade, 2 diamonds, and 2 clubs when the club finesse was repeated with the AD as entry.

In desperation, she threw the QC under the AC, but this proved no better when declarer produced the 10C and threw her back in with one red king, forcing her to lead away from the other trick 12.

Bobby WolffMay 24th, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

A bridge tale told with brilliance, suggesting the critical part both table psychology and specific, many think, valuable conventions play in results, but, in reflection, do more harm than good.

Lessons to be learned:

1. Yes, lead conventions such as jack denies sometimes helps the defense defend more intelligently, but IMO its overall result is a resounding minus, when the declarer’s side (with your perfectly described declarer’s guess in spades today, literally becomes simply, no guess at all). For illustration, my team won (in 1987) an overtime match in the USA bridge team trials by one measly IMP, instead of losing by ten, strictly because the opponent’s were playing it, making a 3NT contract at one table, instead of, at the other table, and on the same hand, our teammates were defeating 1NT.

2. Like what was intended to be emphasized with today’s hand, the defense (notably East) needed to be mentally prepared to duck the king of diamonds at the key moment without a hitch, in retrospect not as difficult as it might seem, if that player had used his keen mind in preparation to advantage.

Finally and at the death of this discussion, if someone like you were the declarer, the defense would be forced to be at their very best, which emphasized, and for the whole bridge world to see, just how much thought by both the declarer and the defenders is required by special hands which become great challenges.

Much thanks for enabling your exciting bridge story to come to light and for all to see unfold.